Asia Pacific execs lead globe for use of customer experience technologies

30 August 2018 6 min. read

A global survey of executives by strategy and management firm Bain has revealed Asia Pacific business operators to be well ahead in their adoption of customer experience tools.

In a comprehensive international analysis of customer experience tools and trends conducted by global strategy and management consultancy Bain & Company, taking in the views of executives at 700 companies worldwide, those in the emerging markets of the Asia Pacific region have been revealed as the world’s most enthusiastic adopters, well ahead of their counterparts in the more developed market of North America.

Altogether, the survey assessed the uptake of 20 specific tools designed to enhance the customer experience – broken down into four categories; sensing, deciding, acting and managing – with predictive analytics, sensors in products or operations, and personalisation coming out as the most widely used across multiple industries in both the consumer and B2B markets, with these tools powered by powered by artificial intelligence and advanced analytics.Asia-Pacific companies have the highest customer experience tool adoption rateAll in all, 28 percent of Asia Pacific respondents stated that their company had used at least one tool in the past five years, with six being the average number of tools used, compared to a positive response from just 12 percent of North American respondents and average of three tools being used by adopters. The Latin American region recorded the second highest adoption rate at 20 percent, together with Asia Pacific pushing the global average up to 19 percent.

The Bain report cites two particular reasons for the more widespread adoption in the Asia Pacific; the large emerging local markets being less encumbered by legacy IT systems and organisational issues – able then “to experiment with innovative tools and adopt the latest promising technology from scratch, vs. having to integrate new tools into a rigid technology architecture” – and lesser concerns in the region for personal data protection – “as citizens in those countries have grown accustomed to pervasive government monitoring”.

In contrast, the report states, “many companies in Western and other established markets face the challenge of simplifying their IT architecture and their operating models. Large, complex organisations tend to be saddled with functions and departments that operate in silos. Developing a better customer experience increasingly requires modular, more flexible architecture that can support seamless handoffs from one channel to another, as well as integrate different data sources to assemble a single view of the customer.”Projected adoption rates for customer experience toolsFor the Asia Pacific region, the survey also revealed that local companies focused most closely on tools that anticipate customer needs and automate or simplify decision-making processes, while across regions companies – especially those in the financial services, technology, media and telecom sectors – were expecting to rapidly expand their use of personalisation tools over the next three years, with ‘personalised experience’ and ‘one-to-one sales and marketing’ tool usage set to jump from a current 30 to 70 percent and 20 to 64 percent respectively.

However, the survey further found an inverse correlation between satisfaction levels for individual tools and their rates of adoption, with the lowest satisfaction rates for some of the most widespread tools and the highest satisfaction expressed for lesser used tools such as delivery drones and ‘episode management’ (a holistic approach which consists of all the customer-facing and back-office activities involved to fulfill a customer’s needs during an engagement) – with early adopters commonly the most excited by new technology and the potential to create a competitive advantage.

Conversely, the Bain report explains the lower satisfaction rates for more common technologies as a form of stagnation through familiarity, stating; “This is because as tools become established, users expect more of them. The longer a tool is in place, the more a company relies on it to deliver better results – but eventually users will run up against the tool’s limitations. In addition, competitors are using the same tools, so the tools lose their distinctiveness.”Commonality of customer experience tools correlates with lower satisfactionWhen questioned, Asia Pacific executives were also more confident in a range of 25 emerging customer experience trends taking place before 2025 – trends across the retail, healthcare, financial services and industrial goods domains such as artificial intelligence handling more than 75 percent of customer service tasks and processes, and drones delivering more than two-thirds of small packages – with local business leaders agreeing on average at 64 percent, compared to a 46 percent rate recorded for their North American counterparts.

The high positive response rate in the Asia Pacific to customer experience tools and trends puts locally-guided firms on par with those which have already been proven successful as to financial performance (as measured by having 10 percent or higher revenue growth over the past five years and high satisfaction with financial results), with leading firms globally tending toward higher tool usage and greater satisfaction, as well as more greatly expecting the emergence of customer experience trends by 2025 – at an average of 63 percent of agreement compared to a 40 percent average for lagging firms.

Crystal ball

For the Asia Pacific, execs most keenly foresee the greater blending of digital and human elements in several new areas, such as customer sentiment being transformed by the use of biological sensors (66 percent locally compared to 36 percent in North America), and machines becoming customers themselves as decisions are delegated to automation (60 percent vs. 34 percent) – with the local sentiment according to Bain highlighting the technologically adept nature of the region; “Compared with other regions, many customers in Asia-Pacific are relatively tech savvy, and also more comfortable with the prospect of technology entering their lives and even their bodies.”

“With customer expectations increasing exponentially, the new basis of competition is how reliably you can deliver delightful customer experiences. This has generated intense innovation and experimentation to find ways to effectively use new and existing customer experience tools,” said Gerard du Toit, global head of Bain’s Customer Experience capabilities. Andreas Dullweber, head of Bain’s Customer Strategy & Marketing for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, adds, “Our research reveals a strong correlation between the amount of effort a company puts into adopting the tool and their satisfaction with it.”